It may surprise you to know that there are an amazing 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice.They can be divided into two basic groups, long grain and all purpose.Here we will explain the differences and offer some great recipes with rice.
It is believed that rice was grown as far back as 5000 years BC.It is hard to determine whether China, India or Thailand was the real home to rice. What we are clear about is that rice was introduced to Europe and the Americas through travellers and explorers.Here in Britain we would never be able to grow rice as it requires huge amounts of rainfall followed by a season of hot, dry weather. In many countries rice has cultural and religious connotations. In Japan for example it has its own god called Inari and in Indonesia there is the rice goddess Dewie Srie.
Elsewhere rice is associated with fertility which is why it is often thrown over newly weds. It is traditionally the first solid food given to babies. In all of these ways we can see that rice has had a rich and varied history, far beyond just providing a food source.
There are no hard and fast rules as to which rice you should use, sometimes this comes down to taste.Lets look at the main types of rice that you will find and what they are usually used for.
Rice is normally classified according to size so you will see it referred to as long grain, medium grain and short grain rice.Long grain rice are slender grains and are 4 to 5 times longer than they are wide. Medium grain rice is about twice as long as wide and tends to be more moist when cooked than long grain. Short grain rice is almost round in shape.It has more starch in it than other other types of rice so tends to stick together when you cook it, hence its use in dishes like sushi.
Brown rice essentially is brown as it still has its germ, it has only had the husk removed. It is high in minerals and B vitamins and vitamin E. For this reason it is often seen as a healthier option over white rice.Taste wise it has a fuller flavour than white rice and has more 'bite'. White rice in contrast has had its husk, bran and most of the germ removed.
The most common forms of rice in this category include arborio rice, basmati rice jasmine rice and bomba rice.
This rice is mostly grown in Italy and is well known for being the rice you would use when making an Italian rissotto.It can also be used as a pudding rice. Compared to other rice it can absorb five times its weight in liquid, which is why it creates that lovely creamy texture in risottos.
This rice is grown in India and Pakistan and will be well known to you if you love your curry!As it cooks the rice doesn't plump out but instead seems to lengthen. It is lower in starch than other rice and therefore tends to turn out fluffy and separate. You can buy both white and brown basmati.
Bomba rice is grown in Spain and tends to be used in paella dishes. It is short grain and can absorb liquid so making it ideal for paellas.
Jasmine rice is a long grain rice very similar to basmati. It tends to be used in Thai cooking. Also like basmati it can be bought as both white or brown rice.
Aside from the usual risottos and curry dishes that you may be familiar with check out recipes for the following. A jambalaya is a dish using basmati rice that combines rice with smoky sausage, chicken and tomatoes. Egg fried rice can make a great main dish and again uses basmati rice combined with prawns and vegetables. Or look at making a fish or veggie kedgeree which uses arborio rice.